Thursday, June 11, 2009

Religion and the Market - John Gray on LSE

This is a lecture not just by John Gray, but I was drawn to it by the previous one in which Gray made a huge impression on me. At the London School of Economics (LSE Public Lectures and Events) John Micklethwait was invited to speak on the book he co-authored 'God is Back'. John Gray featured as discussant.

The resulting conversation was very interesting. The most important point that stuck with me is that the assumption there is ongoing secularization is false. Secularization never was much of a phenomenon outside Western Europe, but, so it seems, even there religion is marching back. Of course we hear a lot from fervent atheists, but as Gray points out: they wouldn't make so much uncompromising noise if they didn't feel they are in the defensive. My own private addition was: and the fervor also looks more like religion than anything else.

There is however something different, I noticed. The way people turn to religion is of a secular nature. That is, they turn by choice and they do not necessarily turn to the tradition they stem from. Research in the US, I am told on the podcast, shows that 44% of Americans has chosen their religion differently from their tradition. This does seem like a kind of secularization to me. In any case this podcast gave much food for thought and I highly recommend it.

More LSE Events:
John Gray's cultural pessimism,
Controversies in the Economics of Climate Change,
Nudge: decision architecture,
The EU and the Middle East.

Out of the comfort zone

Everywhere on my blog is an open invitation to submit podcasts, any podcast, for review. Occasionally, it is really hard to carry out the promise of giving a review. For some podcasts I am just not the target audience and since I find it of no use to make remarks on technical points alone (like the audio quality), I am left without words. Here are a few of those podcasts.

Cat Crave (feed) is a podcast for fans of the Carolina Panthers - American Football. Goodness, apart from the fact I hardly follow sports, some football (soccer) and cycling at best, I know absolutely nothing about American Football, let alone the Carolina Panthers. I found myself listening to incomprehensible jargon that sometimes bounded to the ridiculous. A new player of the panthers was praised for being fast by one speaker and the next added that he also 'had great speed'. Only when a prolonging of the football season was discussed, I could make out some logic. More injuries, shorter careers for professional players - that I can recognize from other branches of sport.

Masters of None (feed) is a conversational podcast in which comics and movies are discussed that I do not know. And then, when you are detached from the subject you are stuck with the playfully teasing banter between the participants. Until you get to know them, you are shut out from that as well.

The BMS World Mission podcast is a show made for the partners of the Baptist Mission world wide (feed). It is a rather light radio rubric style program that sounds exactly like regular radio, only its items are always Christian, related to missionary work and the dedication of one's life to The Lord. Again, I am not the audience and in this case, you are shut out if you are not. This constant returning to the mission has a self-congratulatory character that applies to the makers and the audience that are IN the faith; for others it can only be off putting. On top of that there is prayer at the end.
There was one item that I did like though and that was, maybe surprisingly, the meditation. Mark Woods takes a piece of scripture and gives a short interpretation that conveys a critical look at missionary work. Even if one is not of the same view, thoughts are provoked and, importantly, at long last the self-congratulatory atmosphere is traded for a much more genuine discourse.